Monday, January 13, 2020

Georges Méliès | Eclipse de Soleil en pleine Lune (Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon)

hot sex
by Douglas Messerli

Georges Méliès (writer and director) Eclipse de Soleil en pleine Lune (Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon / 1907

Georges Méliès’ 1907 black-and-white short, Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon, like so many other early films which might interpreted as LBGTQ films, is a territory openly up for question.
    The narrative of this early film is quite simple: a teacher (Méliès himself) of rather prankish students is attempting to describe to the naughty boys what they are about to witness, the alignment of the sun and moon into an eclipse.
      The teacher describes their alignment on his chalk board in a rather prudish coming together with a dotted line, as he, his assistants, and students rush up to the observatory tower to watch the event.
might have presented the coupling in quite traditional heterosexual terms, the sun obviously being male, and the moon presented as a woman.
      But in a remarkable shift, the director portrays the sexually hot sun predictably, while casting the moon as a quite effeminate man. Their brief “affair” is presented with an amazing sense of camp, with the tongue-licking flirtations and pleasures they are both about to enjoy. Indeed, the moon reminds one a bit of the campiest version of gay actor Nathan Lane’s performances.
     The two enjoyably engage in the hottest of sexual encounters before they move off in opposite directions, the moon clearly sad to be leaving his lover. After which, the stars and other planets, mostly represented as women—yet appearing on the small screen I was watching mostly as men in drag—catapult over each other in a shower of falling stars that so shocks the pedant that he falls from his tower in a rain barrel below, only to be retrieved by his raucous students.
     The entire work is a satire from beginning to end, first mocking the pedagogical role of the Master of Science, and then laughing at the sexual roles that the film itself projects to us—before, finally, tumbling all scientific knowledge into a slop-pail, as if to suggest sex is better.
  These boys from 1907 were played out in more detail in Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct. And we know, given their age, they are more awed by the actual male-upon-male (in this case) sexual conduct than any lecture that they had to endure.
   Méliès’ studio did regularly feature women as well as males, even if it might not have been fashionable for women to perform in film. If we are to believe Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Méliès’ wife was very involved in his film productions. So, why did he obviously chose a male to play the Moon?
    Here, not for the first time, the director chose to portray a central character, in this case “Dainty Diana,” not in the traditional way, surely for the satire and perhaps even mockery of the event. If we cannot perceive that, however, we are surely blind to the representation of gays on the screen I’d argue. You may not like the effeminate moon, but there he is, obviously being fucked by a lusty sun. He's exited by the possibility, and sad when it ends.

Los Angeles, January 13, 2020
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (January 2020).

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